Farm increases public involvement with classes, hosted dinners

Debi Engelhardt-Vogel prepares basil for a restaurant client Aug. 15 at Vogel Farms near Kuna, Idaho.

Capital Press

Vogel Farms for years has attracted visitors who buy the fresh food grown there, or buy gifts at one of several on-site stores.

Now, owner Debi Engelhardt-Vogel aims to attract more people to the Kuna, Idaho, farm of 200 acres with an upcoming series of cooking classes and hosted dinners. Classes start in October.

Engelhardt-Vogel said the events are already generating interest from a growing segment of the population desiring more fresh local food.

The events also reflect a long-term plan she and her late husband, Ed Vogel — who died late last year following a long illness — had to increase public participation in the farm.

“Almost everything we are doing now, he was a part of,” Engelhardt-Vogel said. “This year has been a year of healing and trying to get back on track.”

As for the local-food theme of upcoming classes and hosted dinners, “I look at my grandkids. They are very aware of where their food comes from,” she said. She runs the farm with her son-in-law, daughters and grandsons.

More members of the Baby Boom generation, including recent migrants to southwest Idaho, are gaining this awareness as they wind down busy careers, said Engelhardt-Vogel, 59.

“I have been able to get some of that back by being on the farm, so it wasn’t completely lost,” she said. The longtime business analyst and consultant spent years planning and self-funding what would become Vogel Farms Country Market, begun in 2005. A large kitchen is one of its new features.

Classes, held year-round up to twice a week, will cover cooking techniques as well as special topics such as preserving and canning, how to prepare particular foods, and making the best use of home gardens, she said. Fresh foods free of chemicals and preservatives, like Vogel Farms-grown meats, will be featured.

In separate dinner classes also targeted to start in October, Engelhardt-Vogel plans to lead small groups in cooking a three-course meal of fresh ingredients primarily from the farm. She expects to host one dinner a week plus additional sessions that groups can schedule.

In class and dinner settings, she said, themes will include “eating locally and seasonally — being aware of what you are putting in your mouth” as well as “the importance of farming, and the importance of the small farm.”

Costs are yet to be determined and will reflect what foods are used, Engelhardt-Vogel said.

Next summer, she plans to make the farm available for hosted farm-to-table events.

“My husband really wanted this to be a Century Farm,” Engelhardt-Vogel said. “We have 33 years left. From the looks of things, houses are going to be surrounding us. We need to find a way we can complement the houses and be able to survive.”

Vogel Farms raises beef, pork, chicken and eggs. With nearby Cabalo’s Orchard, it raises turkeys that are finished there, and cooperates in running a greenhouse and raising popcorn.


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